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How to make your barbecue healthier

Hadyn Luke posted this on Friday 14th of June 2013 Hadyn Luke 14/06/2013

Tags: Nutrition weight management

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How to make your barbecue healthier

The sun is shining, the barbecues are out – so in our latest health and fitness blog we are looking at healthier options for outdoor cooking.

As every good personal trainer and fitness professional will advise, exercise and healthy eating should go hand in hand. The staple barbecue foods such as hot dogs and burgers tend to be high in fat and calories and low in nutritional value. However, there are a wide range of healthier alternatives to choose from. 

Healthy options for meat barbecues

First, choose a good cut of meat – not only will it be healthier but it will also taste better. Remove the skin from chicken and if you’re barbecuing steak or pork, make sure you trim any excess fat. Personal trainers will often work with clients who consume additional protein for muscle repair after weight training; high quality, lean meat is a better option than a fatty, cheaper cut. 

Pre-packed processed barbecue burgers and sausages will have a reduced meat content and are likely to be high in fat and salt. It’s much better to make your own burgers with lean beef mince, fresh herbs and onion for flavour – or try turkey mince as a healthier alternative. These can be prepared in advance and left in the fridge to chill – this will also help to prevent them from falling apart on the barbecue. 

Meat alternatives

One option is meat substitutes such as Quorn and tofu (bean curd), both of which are high in protein and low in fat, so again they should be a popular option for any clients a personal trainer may have who are looking to increase their protein intake and eat healthily. There are several barbecue options on the shelves, from Quorn chicken style pieces to sausages made with Quorn or tofu. 

The best fish for the barbecue

A healthier alternative to beef steak, tuna steak is perfect for barbecuing as it holds its shape well and there’s no danger to health if the inside remains pink – in fact, tuna becomes dry and tasteless when overcooked. 

Other fish filets or whole fish such as salmon and trout can be brushed in oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs and wrapped in foil for the barbecue. 

Monkfish and king prawns are perfect for kebabs and you can add vegetables such as chunks of pepper, whole button mushrooms and baby tomatoes to the skewer. 

If a fitness instructor is working with a client looking to better manage their weight, fish and vegetables are healthy alternatives that can help weight loss alongside their programme of exercise in the gym. 

Barbecuing potatoes and vegetables

Jacket and sweet potatoes wrapped in foil are a healthy barbecue staple – just avoid adding too much butter and salt. Vegetables such as aubergine and plantain can be roasted in foil, asparagus can be grilled directly on the barbecue and Mediterranean veg such as courgettes, aubergines and peppers can be marinated in a variety of sauces such as teriyaki or mustard and herb before being barbecued on a skewer.

Fruit

Certain fruit such as pineapple or banana barbecues remarkably well. Like potatoes and vegetables, they can be wrapped in foil and eaten hot with low-fat frozen yoghurt. While personal trainers often find that clients drink fruit juice in a bid to be healthy, this can be high in sugars and low in roughage. 

Sauces and dips

If you’re taking the trouble to prepare a healthy barbecue, don’t forget that many of the extras can be high in calories, salt and fat. If you want to serve crisps, go for the low fat, low salt versions, or alternatives such as pretzels, and choose plain instead of salted nuts. 

A lot of sauces and dips have a high calorie count and contain high levels of fat – in particular mayonnaise and dips. Choose the reduced-sugar versions of tomato sauce or replace with a home-made relish made from fresh tomatoes chopped up with onions and herbs. If you’re unsure, ask your fitness instructor or a dietician for recommendations.

Health risks from barbecued food

One of the main reasons for contracting food poisoning after a barbecue is eating undercooked meat. Although steak can be served pink, make sure that pork and chicken is cooked right through to the middle and not burned to a crisp on the outside. 

Another risk factor is contamination from raw meat. Before cooking, raw meat should be washed and patted dry with kitchen towel. It should then be kept in a separate area from cooked food and salads. Anyone handling raw meat should ensure they wash their hands before they handle other food – and utensils for raw and cooked meat should always be kept separate.

Finally, you should avoid leaving perishable food out in the hot sun. This is not only relevant for raw meat and fish but also for potato salad, coleslaw, dips and other dairy-based products that can quickly go off and become dangerous to health.

Happy barbecuing!

 

 

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